Ferguson, Amos

Amos Ferguson (born 1920, Exuma, The Bahamas, died 2009) was one of The Bahamas's most prolific artists and remains its most renowned intuitive artists, often referred to as "the grandfather of Bahamian Art." A deeply religious man, Ferguson's work illustrates religious and folklore narratives, in which anthropomorphic animals, angels, music and landscape are depicted in curious and stunning compositions.   

Born on the island of Exuma, Ferguson attended Roker’s Point School until the age of 14 and worked with his father, a preacher, farmer and carpenter, until he left for Nassau.  Determined to be a painter, he first earned his living painting houses and signs.  Inspired by a dream his nephew had about Ferguson being given a gift by God, he started to paint pictures in his free time.  His first art works were sold to tourists at the straw market, signed "Paint by Mr. Amos Ferguson."  Preferring house paints to acrylics or oils, he used cardboard and plywood instead of canvas for his paintings and tools like the heads of nails to make dots or circles.  He worked at his kitchen table until his retirement.

Ferguson's first solo exhibition was held at Toogood’s Studio in 1972, with other exhibitions in 1977 and 1978 at the Lyford Cay Gallery and Brent Malone’s Matinee Gallery.  By the mid-1980s, the artist's fame was spreading beyond an appreciative circle of local artists.  In 1985 the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford, Connecticut held an exhibition of 50 paintings with the same title as his distinctive signature Paint by Mr. Amos Ferguson.  The exhibition traveled the world for two years and sealed his reputation on the international art scene.

“No-one can teach me what God teaches me,” he said about his work, “I paint by faith not by sight.”  Ferguson follows in the tradition of the ‘girot’ or African storyteller.  Each of his paintings tells a significant story, often ones remembered from his childhood such as Police Stop Elephant with Flowers or Cats and Fiddles.

In 2005, the Bahamas honored him by naming the street where his modest home stands from Exuma Street to Amos Ferguson Street.  In 2013, a major retrospective of his artworks entitled Bahamian Outsider was held at the NAGB, and all previous records for museum attendance were shattered during the 6 months his works were on exhibition.